This section provides general guidance to reviewers on the procedure and requirements to assess manuscripts submitted to journals published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
For additional information that is specific to one of our journals please refer to the About our journals page.
On this page
Code of conduct & conflicts of interest
How to write a review
Help using our peer review system
The information on this page was reproduced in part with permission from 'Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research', Chem Rev., 1995, 95, pp 11A-13A. © 1985, 1989, 1995 American Chemical Society.
Code of conduct & conflicts of interest
Code of conduct
One of the foundations of the scientific profession is the acceptance by its members of a 'code of conduct', which outlines desired behaviour and obligations of members of the profession to each other and the public. Such a code of conduct seeks to maximise the benefits of science to society and the profession. The advancement of science requires the sharing of knowledge, even though this may sometimes forego any immediate personal advantage.
The publication of scientific research in journals is one of the fundamental ways in which the Royal Society of Chemistry serves the chemical science communities. Central to this service is the responsibility that editors, authors and reviewers maintain the high ethical standard relating to the publication of manuscripts. In cases where these guidelines are breached or appear to be so, the Royal Society of Chemistry will consult the core practices and best practice guidelines of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and act accordingly.
Conflicts of interest
The relevant Royal Society of Chemistry journal concerned should be informed of any significant** conflict of interest that editors, authors or reviewers may have, in order to determine if any action may be appropriate (such as adding a declaration of an author’s conflict of interest to a published piece, or disqualifying a reviewer). Conflicts of interest are almost inevitable and it is not intended to attempt to eliminate these. For a description and discussion of some leading journals' policies on conflicts of interest see: F van Kolfschooten, 'Conflicts of interest: Can you believe what you read?', Nature, 28 March 2002, vol. 416, pp. 360-363; DOI: 10.1038/416360a.
Editors, authors and reviewers of a manuscript should inform the relevant journal of any significant financial interest - recent, present or anticipated - in any organisation that may in any way gain or lose financially from the publication of the piece (for example, employment by such an organisation; funds for research; funds for a member of staff; fees for consulting; stock or share holdings; patent interests). If you have such an interest, you may have a conflict of interest, which should be declared.
An editor, author or reviewer may wish to disclose to the editor a conflict of interest that would be embarrassing if it became generally known (for example, an academic link or rivalry or a close relationship with, or a strong antipathy to, a person whose interests may be affected by publication of a manuscript).
**Significance may be judged by considering whether an undeclared conflict of interest could be embarrassing were it to become publicly known after the fact.
We may ask authors to recommend suitable reviewers on submission of their manuscript. When recommending reviewers, the following points should be considered:
- Recommended reviewers must have sufficient expertise in the relevant subject area.
- Authors should not recommend reviewers with whom they have a conflict of interest, for example, a close collaborator or colleague.
- Recommended reviewers should not be at the same institute as any of the authors listed on the manuscript.
- The RSC considers diversity in reviewers to be an important aspect of peer review. Therefore, wherever possible please consider diversity when recommending reviewers, for example in terms of career stage, gender, geographic location, race and ethnicity, etc.
- Institutional email addresses should be provided for recommended reviewers, wherever possible.
For further guidance on avoiding potential conflicts of interest during the peer review process, see the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) ethical guidelines for peer reviewers.
Conflict of interest statement
Please note that a Conflicts of interest statement is required for all submitted manuscripts. If no conflicts exist, please state that ‘There are no conflicts to declare' under a Conflicts of interest heading as the last section before your Acknowledgements.
In addition to adhering to the 'Code of conduct and conflicts of interest' guidelines reviewers have the following responsibilities.
Treat the manuscript as confidential: The manuscript (or its existence) should not be shown to, disclosed to, or discussed with others, except in special cases, where specific scientific advice may be sought; in that event the editor must be informed and the identities of those consulted disclosed. Information acquired by a reviewer from such a paper is not available for disclosure or citation until the paper is published
Destroy/erase the manuscript and to inform the editor should they be unqualified to review the manuscript, or lack the time to review the manuscript, without undue delay.
To judge the manuscript objectively and in a timely fashion: Reviewers should not make personal criticism in their reviews.
To inform the editor if there is a conflict of interest: Specifically, reviewers should not review manuscripts authored or co-authored by a person with whom the reviewer has a close personal or professional relationship, if this relationship could be reasonably thought to bias the review.
To respect the intellectual independence of authors.
To explain and support their judgements so that editors and authors may understand the basis of their comments, and to provide reference to published work, where appropriate.
To inform the editor of any similarity between the submitted manuscript and another either published or under consideration by another journal.
To ensure that all unpublished data, information, interpretation and discussion in a submitted article remain confidential and not to use reported work in unpublished, submitted articles for their own research.
To alert the editor if a manuscript contains or appears to contain plagiarised material, falsified or manipulated data.
To only suggest that authors include citations to the reviewer’s (or their associates’) own work where this adds value to the scientific aspects of the paper.
Not to retain or copy the submitted manuscript in any form; to comply with data protection regulations, as appropriate.
Not to use information obtained during the peer review process for their own or any other person’s or organisation’s advantage, or to disadvantage or discredit others.
The reviewers' reports constitute recommendations to the appropriate editor, who takes the final action on manuscripts submitted. The reviewer should consider the work and assess its suitability for the journal to which it has been submitted using the general guidance provided in this section and the details to be found in the journal specific guidelines.
If the reviewer does not consider the manuscript to be suitable for the journal to which it has been submitted, they should consider whether the manuscript may be suitable for publication in an alternative Royal Society of Chemistry journal and clearly state any suggestions in the report.
In cases where reviewers are unable to assess the manuscript, the editor would welcome suggestions of alternative reviewers who may be able to assess the manuscript. In such instances, the reviewer should provide details of the alternative reviewer and the editor will send an invitation to review the manuscript. Reviewers should decline the invitation to review if there is any conflict of interest. If the reviewer has any ethical concerns regarding the work or the authorship then these must be brought to the attention of the editor.
The editor is responsible for all administrative and executive actions, and can accept or reject papers. Once a manuscript has been revised by the authors then it is the editor's duty to see that, as far as possible, agreement is reached between the authors and reviewers. The reviewers may need to be consulted again concerning an author's reply to comments, but further review is only undertaken when necessary.
If there is a notable discrepancy between the reports of the two reviewers, or if the difference between authors and reviewers cannot be resolved readily, a senior reviewer may be appointed as adjudicator. The role of the adjudicator is to consider the initial reports and provide a final recommendation on the manuscript based on these reports (and author comments where they exist) and their own thoughts on the manuscript.
When a paper is recommended for rejection, the editor will inform the authors. Authors have the right to appeal to the editor if they regard the decision to reject as unfair. Appeals are granted at the discretion of the editor. In such cases the editor will request a letter detailing the reason for appeal, as well as a full response to the reviewers’ reports. The manuscript will then be sent to a senior reviewer who has not previously evaluated the manuscript and who will offer a final opinion on the manuscript.
The anonymity of reviewers is strictly preserved from the authors, unless a reviewer voluntarily signs their comments to authors. Any additional files which are provided with the reviewer’s comments should be anonymised by the reviewer, for example, the file properties, or comments/annotations within a document. A reviewer should never communicate directly with an author, unless and until such action has been agreed by the Royal Society of Chemistry, through the editor.
Reviewers may disclose publicly that they have served as a reviewer for a named Royal Society of Chemistry journal. However, a reviewer must not identify himself/herself as the reviewer of a specific manuscript nor disclose the contents of the submitted review to any individual or organization. This expectation of peer review confidentiality and anonymity applies both during and after the peer review process, without time limit.
Though reviewers are always anonymous to authors, some journals now offer double-anonymised peer review. Authors who choose to opt in to this model will also be anonymous to reviewers.
Sharing of reviewer reports
When the editor makes a decision on a manuscript, reviewers are typically notified of that decision and are provided with the comments from all reviewers on the manuscript. The reviewers’ anonymity is preserved unless the reviewer has voluntarily signed their report. Reviewers are informed at the point of invitation to review if their report will be shared in this way.
How to write a review
Information on the scope and standards of each journal can be found in the journal specific guidelines.
Please aim to submit your review promptly: the suggested deadline for receipt of the review is given in the invitation email. Please inform the editor as soon as possible if you are not able to submit your review by the deadline.
When writing a reviewer report please consider:
Suitability of the article for the journal’s scope
Impact and novelty of the work
The length of the article – does it reflect the level of scientific content and fit within any relevant page limits?
Whether the article type is appropriate
The title – does it reflect the content and contain relevant search terms for discoverability?
The abstract – is it self-contained without reference to the main text?
Which revisions are major concerns preventing publication, and which are minor concerns the authors can easily resolve, and indicate this in your report
Please review all electronic supplementary information (ESI) provided.
Please answer the specific questions on the reviewer report form; they help to create a constructive report that will be of the most use to the editor when making their decision.
You don't need to provide detailed comments on language, grammar or spelling errors except where this makes the meaning of the science unclear.
Please inform the editor if:
The manuscript contains work which closely resembles other publications, or duplicates text and/or figures
You have concerns about the level of scientific rigour
The manuscript lacks sufficient novelty or is incremental (list any relevant publications in your report)
You suspect fragmentation of a substantial body of work into several short publications
You consider that a manuscript contains personal criticism of others
You have ethical concerns such as plagiarism or regarding approval for human or animal experimentation (see here for more information)
You wish to see any supporting data not submitted for publication, or any previous unpublished paper
Along with your comments on the review and answers to the editor’s questions, the report should contain a recommendation to the editor. Your options may include:
The manuscript would be suitable for publication in its current form (after copy-editing and proofreading).
The manuscript could be suitable for publication after the author(s) have responded to the reviewer comments and made changes where appropriate. These changes could include referencing another work or a rewrite of a few sections.
The manuscript could be suitable for publication after the author(s) have responded to the reviewer comments and made changes where necessary. These changes could include redoing experiments or a substantial rewrite of several sections.
Reject – encourage submission in another RSC journal
The manuscript is not suitable for the journal it was submitted to, but the content is good and could be suitable for a different Royal Society of Chemistry journal.
The manuscript is not suitable and it should not be considered further.
Unconscious bias in peer review
We all have unconscious biases (also known as implicit bias) – shaped by our environment, background and experiences – that often lead to biases in our decision making. This video, produced by the Royal Society, provides more information about unconscious bias.
In peer review our unconscious biases can lead us to make instinctive but incorrect assessments of an article. For example a reviewer’s report and recommendation can be unconsciously influenced by:
- The gender, career stage, country or institute of the author
- The journals in which the author’s previous work was published
- The reviewer’s previous level of awareness of the author and their research
The Royal Society of Chemistry is committed to reducing bias in peer review, and we ask our Editors and reviewers to minimise the influence that their unconscious biases have on their decisions by:
- Being aware of potential unconscious biases that you may have
- Focussing on the research in the article, not the names or locations of the authors
- Slowing down your decision making
- Relying on facts rather than feelings to shape your recommendation
- Considering and reconsidering the reasons for your recommendation
If the manuscript you are reviewing contains any of the following:
- Electronic supplementary information (ESI)
- New compounds
- X-ray crystallographic work,
then please refer to the guidelines below, and any journal specific requirements listed on the journal homepage.
Reviewers are asked to assess any ESI that is submitted alongside a manuscript. ESI is classed as any Electronic Supplementary Information that provides additional or supporting information, as well as other file/media types, including large data sets, movies etc. Please check that appropriate material is published as ESI rather than being included in the article. Any ESI supplied upon submission must be reviewed thoroughly, and to the same standard as the article.
Reviewers should refer to the Royal Society of Chemistry ESI guidelines, which explain in more detail our requirements for publication.
Not all papers will contain Spectroscopic Information, and even among those journals that do, guidelines can vary significantly. It is therefore very important to refer to the individual journal specific guidelines, which explain in more detail our requirements for publication. Spectroscopic information can often be located in the ESI that has been submitted with the manuscript. Please make sure that the ESI is checked thoroughly so as not to miss important data.
Spectroscopic information necessary for the assignment of a structure should normally be given. How complete this information must be depends upon the circumstances; the structure of a compound obtained from an unusual reaction or isolated from a natural source needs much stronger supporting evidence than one derived by a standard reaction from a precursor with an undisputed structure.
Reviewers are asked to assess the evidence in support of the homogeneity and structure of all new compounds. No hard and fast rules can be laid down to cover all types of compounds. For example, an accurate mass measurement of a molecular ion does not provide evidence of purity of a compound and must be accompanied by independent evidence of homogeneity (for example, HPLC).
Not all papers will contain X-ray crystallographic work, so it is important to refer to the individual journal specific guidelines and X-ray crystallography guidelines which explain in more detail our requirements for publication. Papers containing X-ray crystallographic work will be reviewed for their chemical interest. When reviewing manuscripts containing crystal structures, reviewers are not usually expected to fully check the crystal data for accuracy, but should pay attention to the quality of the experimental crystallographic work. The editor may also choose to send the manuscript to a specialist crystallographer for specific crystallographic review.
In a Communication a structure must usually be fully refined. For a Full paper, partial refinement may be sufficient if only being used to establish connectivity, confirm a trend or if the full structure has previously been published as a Communication, at the editor’s discretion. These Full papers must reference the original Communication and relevant CCDC/ICSD numbers. If the crystallography is discussed again at length in the Full paper, the data should be presented in full and, where necessary, redeposited with the CCDC.
In some Full papers where the results of a crystal structure determination are discussed but details or extensive discussion are considered unnecessary, the data relating to the crystal structure determination may be included as electronic supplementary information (ESI), rather than discussed in detail in the manuscript. This is acceptable if there is enough data in the ESI to allow reviewers/crystallographers to confirm the reported results, and if it does not lead to unnecessary fragmentation of the work.
Help using our peer review system
We handle all our peer review through the online system ScholarOne Manuscripts. This system does require the use of pop-ups, therefore please ensure that they are enabled on your device when using the system.
A reviewer guide and FAQ section is available from ScholarOne Manuscripts to help you use and navigate the system.
Registering a new account FAQ
New users will need to set up an account on the system before starting. To do this go to the ScholarOne homepage and click on 'Register here' under 'New User?' to the right of the page. It takes only a few minutes to complete the form; once done you will be able to access your account immediately.
I am trying to register my account and am getting a 'Marketing Flag' error. What do I do?
A Marketing Flag error occurs when you have not completed a required field. You are required to respond to the question that reads 'Do you wish to receive emails from the Royal Society of Chemistry about its related activities, products and services?', which can be found in the 'User ID & Password' section of the form, underneath the area where you can add keywords. Please select 'Yes' or 'No' from the dropdown menu.
I’ve forgotten my password, or need to change it, how can I do this?
If you have forgotten your password, go to the journal homepage and click the ‘Submit your article’ link. From this page, select ‘Reset Password’. Your login details will be sent to you.
If you do not receive an email containing your login details, or your email address has changed, please contact the specific journal office.
What is your policy on data protection?
The Royal Society of Chemistry will use the information you supply for the provision and administration of its activities, products and services. It will treat the information you supply in the strictest confidence. There is more information on our Privacy & cookies page.
If you are still having trouble please contact our manuscript support team.
Submitting a review FAQ
You should submit your review through your ScholarOne account. You can access this by using the link in our invitation email or by logging in to your account.
I am not receiving many manuscripts for review or they are not in my subject area, how can I improve this?
Our editors use keywords to search for appropriate reviewers for manuscripts. If you are not receiving many requests, or are not being sent appropriate manuscripts for your expertise, then please review the keywords on your account. You can find these by logging in to your account and clicking the orange triangle by your name in the top left corner. Select the option 'User ID & Password' and a new page will load. There is a list of searchable keywords to choose from, or you may add your own terms in the boxes on the right hand side of the page. You can also add a brief explanation of your research interests in the 'Research Interests' box located underneath the keywords section.
I am very busy and need to take a period off from reviewing, how can I do this?
If you log in to your account and click the orange triangle by your name in the top left corner you will receive several account options. Select the option 'User ID & Password' and a new page will load. On this page there is a box for 'Unavailable Dates' where you can select a time frame during which we will not contact you to request your help in reviewing manuscripts.
I can’t access the manuscript or files I need are missing, what should I do?
Some files do not display in the PDF document provided for reviewers, usually these are movie files, files related to crystal data, or certain types of image files. First, check the supplementary files which can be accessed from the Files tab at the top of your score sheet. If the files you need are not there then please contact the office who will be able to request them and send them to you.
I can’t attach a file with my review, what should I do?
Some Royal Society of Chemistry journals do not allow you to attach files when you submit a review. If you want to submit a graphic, or use equations or symbols that do not display correctly in the online review form then please complete the rest of the form and send the file containing additional information to the editorial office via email.
- Send us an email